When shopping for jewellery, the choice of yellow, white and rose gold, 9K gold, 18K gold, gold vermeil (and more!) can seem confusing. How many types of gold are there? This article explains all the different types of gold so that you can choose the best jewellery for you.
How many types of gold are there?
There are 3 main gold colours sold in jewellery, which are yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. Additionally, there are several different qualities of gold, such as 9K, 14K, 18K and 24K gold. We’ll cover all of these below.
1. GOLD COLOURS
Pure gold, when it is mined from the ground, is naturally yellow.
Take a look at the pure gold nugget pictured below. As you can see, the rich, yellow colour of gold is natural. It comes out of the ground looking like that.
All other gold colours, like white or rose gold, are created by mixing pure gold with other metals.
Yellow gold is popular in jewellery because of its rich, beautiful glow. Many people say it has a luxurious, classic look.
Yellow gold jewellery isn’t actually pure gold. This is because pure gold alone is too soft and can bend.
Therefore, yellow gold jewellery has to contain some harder alloy metals to keep it in shape (but not to change its natural gold colour).
White gold is the most popular colour for jewellery.
It is created by mixing pure gold with white alloy metals, such as silver and platinum. Additionally, white gold is given a coating with a precious metal called rhodium.
White gold jewellery does need some maintenance. Every so often, it needs re-coating with rhodium because it wears away and the yellow gold starts shining through.
Rose gold is made by mixing pure gold with copper. Its rosy glow is reminiscent of vintage jewellery and this has had made it more and more popular over the last decade.
Unlike white gold, rose gold is not coated with any other metal, it is solid. However, over time, the copper mixed with the gold can start looking a little redder.
This ageing process is considered desirable in rose gold, as it shows the item is well worn and loved.
Blue, purple and green gold
Rare gold colours are also created using alloys. For example, purple gold is made with aluminium, and green gold with silver, copper and zinc.
Commercially speaking, these rare gold colours are less popular than yellow, white and rose gold. Therefore, we usually only see them in artisan jewellery designs.
2. GOLD QUALITIES
Apart from different colours, gold may also come in different qualities, or purities.
What is gold purity?
By gold purity we mean the amount of pure gold that is present in an item like a jewellery piece.
Gold purity is measured in karats. The abbreviation for karats is the letter K.
All gold, regardless of its colour, is graded by its purity using karats. So for example, you can buy white gold, rose gold or yellow gold in both 9K or 18K purities.
There are many different purities of gold
Gold comes in several different purities, depending on the ratio of pure gold and alloy metal present:
- 9K gold is 37.5% pure gold
- 10K gold is 41.7% pure gold
- 14K gold is 58.3% pure gold
- 18K gold is 75% pure gold
- 22K gold is 91.6% pure gold
- 24K gold is 100% pure gold
Pure gold equals 24K gold
The maximum number of karats that gold can have is 24.
Therefore, 24K gold is pure gold – and it is always yellow.
Pure gold is too soft for jewellery
Pure gold is a very soft metal. Consequently, it cannot be used in jewellery on its own; a ring made out of pure gold would just bend out of shape.
That’s why all gold must be combined with metal alloys when used in jewellery.
Even yellow gold items must have harder alloy metals mixed into them for this reason.
What gold qualities do jewellers sell?
9K gold and 18K gold are the two main gold qualities that UK jewellery stores most often sell.
These qualities are applicable to ALL gold colours.
So whether your jewellery item is yellow, white or rose gold, its quality will always be indicated with karats in this way.
Which is better 9K or 18K gold?
- Gold content: 9K gold contains only 37.5% pure gold, while 18K gold contains 75% pure gold.
- Price: 18K gold is more expensive because it contains more pure gold.
- Quality: 18K gold feels heavy and luxurious to the touch, and has more re-sale value than 9K gold. Having said that, 9K gold can be more hard-wearing because it contains more alloys.
What about 14K gold and 22K gold?
These are simply further variations of gold quality/purity that some jewellery retailers prefer to sell.
The more gold carats your jewellery has, the more pure gold it contains and the more expensive and valuable it is.
What is gold vermeil?
Gold vermeil is not gold. It is sterling silver that has been plated with gold.
The gold plating in gold vermeil is 2.5 microns thick and made with a minimum gold purity of 14K gold.
This makes it long-lasting and high quality at an affordable price – ideal for those looking for luxury on a budget.
Conclusion: How many types of gold are there?
Depending on colour and purity, there can be hundreds of variations of gold!
However, for the purposes of buying jewellery, it’s sufficient to know that there are 3 main colours of gold – yellow, white and rose gold.
These, in turn, can come in different qualities like 9K or 18K.
Which type of gold is the best?
When it comes to gold colours, only you can decide which one appeals to you the most. Gold quality, on the other hand, depends on your budget and what type of occasion the jewellery is for.
For engagement rings and other jewellery that is worn daily, it’s always a good idea to buy the best quality you can afford so that your jewellery piece stands the test of time.
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